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Expresss fall to Loggers 10-4 in extra innings

 

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Eau Claire, Wis.—A four game winning streak ended in extra innings for the Express, falling to the La Crosse Loggers 10-4 in 11 innings. Alex McKenna rocketed a two-run homer in the third to tie the game at 4-4, but a late rally produced a six-run top of the 11th for the Loggers who emerged victorious at Carson Park.

 

The Loggers would strike early, scoring two runs in the first inning to jump out to an early lead. Justin Wylie drew a walk and Cullen Large continued a strong series against the Express with a one-out single to put two runners aboard against Kenny Ogg in his first start of the season. A throw from Daulton Varsho sailed into center field attempting to foil a La Crosse double steal, allowing Wylie to score and Large to advance to third. First baseman Grant Fennell drove in Large with a single into right field.

 

Last year’s league MVP Mason McCoy would extend the Loggers’ lead to 3-0 with a one run fielder’s choice in the top of the second. La Crosse started the inning in identical fashion to the first, with a fly out to left, a walk, and a single to put two aboard. McCoy grounded a slow roller to Cody Bohanek at short, which was slow enough to prevent an inning ending double play. Ogg recorded his second strikeout, fanning Large to end the inning.

 

The Loggers continued to see the ball well from Ogg. Fennell ripped a deep double to the fence in right center on the first pitch he faced, and scored on the following at bat when Conine lined an RBI single to center field. Ogg would rebound after the no-out run, retiring the next three batters he faced, including a spectacular bare-handed out by Bohanek and a swinging strikeout to end the inning with the score 4-0 in favor of the Loggers.

 

Mickey McDonald gave the Express their third consecutive lead off single in the bottom of the third, but unlike the previous innings, McDonald crossed the plate on a wild pitch from La Cross starter Connor Wollersheim. Daulton Varsho would double Eau Claire’s score with an RBI single to shallow right center to score Rudy Rott, who was hit by a pitch and advanced to third on two wild pitches.

 

With Varsho on base, Alex McKenna hit his second home run in two nights to the fan deck in right field. The two-run home run in the third tied the game at four runs apiece. Last night’s player of the game, McKenna, has displayed impressive power in the clean-up role for the Express, tallying 15 RBI’s in 17 games following his third home run of the season.

 

Jake Sommers came into the game for Ogg in the top of the fourth, forcing a double play to end the inning with a Loggers’ base runner threatening to retake a lead for La Crosse. Ogg would not earn a decision in three innings pitched, allowing four earned runs on six hits, adding three strikeouts to his season total.

 

Sommers would continue to deal on the mound through the sixth inning, allowing only three hits, while fanning two La Crosse hitters. The UW-Milwaukee reliever induced a pop fly to pitch out of a runners-on-the-corner situation to keep the game level 5.5 innings.

 

Joe DiBenedetto came into the game for La Crosse in the bottom half of the sixth, retiring the three batters he faced. The Staten Island native forced three straight fly balls, one to each Loggers’ outfielder.

 

The Loggers looked in position to take a lead in the top of the ninth, with a runner on third with one out. Gavin Johns drew a lead off walk, advanced to second on a McCoy sacrifice bunt, and scampered to third on a passed ball. Two walks (one intentional) by Sommers loaded the bases for the Loggers.

 

 

DiBenedetto and Sommers remained locked in a relievers battle through the eighth inning, with each pitcher doing everything he could to keep the game knotted up. Both pitchers wasted no pitches, sending down the opposing hitters with relative ease. DiBenedetto relied on his wicked curve ball to baffle the Express hitters, striking out two batters in three innings. Cason Sherrod came in for the final out of the eighth with two runners on base, striking out Jared Mang swinging.

 

Johnathon Tripp entered the game in a tough situation, with La Crosse threatening to take a late lead. On his second pitch of the inning, Tripp induced a 4-6-3 double play to preserve the tie.

 

Sherrod issued two full-count walks to start the bottom of the ninth, giving the Express two base runners with a chance to win their second straight walk off at Carson Park. Kyle Marinconz entered the game as a pinch-runner for Daniel Herrera. With two strikeouts in the inning, Sherrod was replaced by Andrew Perez to face left-hander Zach Ashford. Perez’s first pitch was in the dirt, past Cesar Salazar who took over catching duties in the ninth, advancing both runners into scoring position. However, Perez got the job done, forcing a ground ball to end the inning.

 

Tripp retired the Loggers in order in the top of the tenth to give the Express another chance to walk off as winners. The Express were unable to clinch the win in the 10th meaning Tripp returned to the mound for the top of the 11th.

 

Salazar only needed one pitch to reach base in the 11th, lacing a lead off single to shallow left field. Pinch hitter Randy Labaut dropped down a bunt that incredibly stayed fair to give the Loggers two runners for McCoy, who proved why he was the top player in the league last season with an RBI single to left field, scoring Salazar and giving La Crosse a 5-4 lead. The nesxt at bat, Justin Wylie laid down a bunt that forced a throwing error to score another run in the 11th. Tripp exited the game after an apparent rolled ankle, sending in Dylan Smith with two runners in scoring position.

 

Smith’s first act of duty was to intentionally walk Large to set up a force out at every base, hoping to turn two to limit the damage. The side armer followed the walk up with a three pitch swinging strikeout of Fennell. Conine teed off on Smith on a 2-0 pitch, hitting a grand slam to extend the Loggers 11th inning lead to 10-4. Conine’s seventh home run of the season gave the Loggers a comfortable margin in the bottom of the 11th.

 

A different Smith came into the game for the bottom of the 11th, Dave Smith for the Loggers, looking for the save in the extra innings game.

 

Rott and Mang each reached on singles in the bottom of the 11th, and both advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch. Smith struck out Marinconz swinging and forced a grounder to seal the 10-4 win.

 

McKenna was the leading man on offense for the Express with a two-run home run to tie the game back in the third inning. Varsho added an RBI of his own, giving him 36 total on the season, in the top-five best totals in the league.

 

The lone left-hander on the Express pitching staff will get the call in tomorrow night’s game against the Mankato MoonDogs. Eau Claire will square off with the MoonDogs in a two-game series at Franklin Rodgers Park. Following the completion of the series, the Express will be off for three games for the Northwoods League All-Star Break, where five Express players will represent the team in Kenosha, WI. Rodning is 2-1 so far this season with a 5.18 ERA, with an impressive 25 strikeouts in 33 innings on the mound. The sophomore from Minnesota State-Mankato has won two of his past three starts, and will look to end Mankato’s hot streak at the plate so far in the second half of the season.

 

The Eau Claire Express have won the Northwoods League North Division and have earned a trip to the playoffs for the first time since winning the Northwoods League Championship in 2010.  They will host a playoff game at Carson Park on Monday August 15th 6:35pm.  Group and individual game tickets are on sale now! Season tickets and single-game tickets for the regular season are also on sale now for Express home games. All tickets can be purchased by calling the Express office at 715-839-7788 or by stopping at the downtown office at 102 E. Grand Ave. 

 

The Eau Claire Express are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. Playing its 23rd season of summer collegiate baseball, the Northwoods League is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 18 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 150 Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (CHC). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.eauclaireexpress.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store and set the Express as your favorite team.